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Discovering LGBTQ+ Sitges, Spain

An Escape Plan

by Kelsy Chauvin
Sitges Spain (Photo by Alberto Zamorano)

Just 40-minutes south via the R2 train from Barcelona, Sitges (“seat-chess”) is both easily accessible and pleasantly quaint.

Sitges, Spain (Photo by Alberto Zamorano)

Sitges is home to one of Europe’s most welcoming LGBTQ communities, and no matter when you visit the Sitges lifestyle will seduce you.

The small Spanish city of Sitges is a sparkling gem on the Mediterranean, where the slower pace and seaside atmosphere command your full attention. In a flash you may realize you’ve forgotten everything else for the sake of just being present and adapting to the locals’ leisurely tempo, and it is heavenly.

Just 40-minutes south via the R2 train from Barcelona, Sitges (“seat-chess”) is both easily accessible and pleasantly quaint. It’s also equal parts historic and modern, low-key and popular. Long ago this little Catalonian fishing village expanded as an artists’ retreat. Then over the last century, Sitges became home to one of Europe’s most welcoming LGBTQ communities.

Celebrating Pride in Siges (Photo by Carlos Pereira)

Celebrating Pride in Siges (Photo by Carlos Pereira)

There’s no wrong time to visit Sitges. During the quieter season (October-April), you can relax among locals, dine without reservations, and enjoy winter’s softer sunshine. By contrast, peak tourist months are bursting with life, bookended with two big gay events, May’s Bears Sitges Meeting Week and September’s Bears Week (bearssitges.org). In between are spicy Sitges Pride (gaysitgespride.com) in June, and the city’s biggest annual party, Festa Major (sitgesanytime.com), in August. No matter when you visit the Sitges lifestyle will seduce you.

All of the Spain’s beloved gastronomy is done well in Sitges, so expect to get your fill of fresh seafood, paella, jamón (ham), Spanish tortillas, olives, and oh so many amazing cheeses. Restaurants line the long waterfront, with favorite spots for fresh fish, salads, and more at Yamuna (Carrer de Port Alegre 27. Tel: +34-93-119-5095.) and Costa Dorado (Carrer de Port Alegre 27. Tel: +34-93-894-3543. restaurantecostadorada.com/en), both on the San Sebastian Beach promenade.

For traditional cuisine, head to La Nansa (Carrer de la Carreta 24. Tel: +34-93-894-1927. restaurantlanansa.com) and try the black-rice paella made with cuttlefish, prawns, and clams. Enjoy open-air dining and a menu with nice variety at Alfresco (Carrer d’en Pau Barrabeig 4. Tel: +34-93-894-0600. alfrescorestaurante.es/en) in the heart of the old town. Head to spacious Montroig Café (Carrer Marquès Montroig 13. Tel: +34-93-894-8439. montroigcafe.com) for casual breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and snacks.

Tapas In Sitges (Photo by Tatiana Goskova)

Tapas In Sitges (Photo by Tatiana Goskova)

Smaller bites called tapas (generally little versions of main dishes) and pinxtos (snacks that typically come with toothpicks), are readily available at bars and casual restaurants. One of our favorites for tapas is El Donostiarra (Carrer Major 14. Tel: +34-93-811-0263), featuring some of the best local fish, sausage, and other delicacies.

Sitges is home to a rare variety of wine called Malvasia, whose grapes have been grown in this area of Catalonia since the 14th century. Similar to sherry, Malvasia de Sitges is so tied to local history, you’d be remiss not to visit the former hospital turned wine-history museum known as the Malvasia Interpretation Center (Plaça de Joan Duran i Ferret. Tel: +34-67-268-2481. cellerdelhospital.cat). You can sample Malvasia wine there, and taste it in different restaurants around town, such as La Salseta (C. de Sant Pau 35. Tel: +34-93-811-0419. lasalseta.com), which also has a small retail store.

Don’t miss the chance for even greater wine tasting with a regional tour of Penedès, the surrounding region that produces Cava and other delicious red and white wines. While you’re checking out the greater Sitges area, plan time in Garraf Park (visitsitges.com/en/garraf-park), the sprawling natural reserve with rolling hills, trails, wildlife, vineyards, and stunning sea views.

In the old quarter of Sitges, head to Church of St. Bartholomew Church and St. Tecla (Plaça Ajuntament 20) to reach the elevated promenade built in the 17th century. It’s a wayfinding landmark between the beaches and the charming little streets that crisscross through town.

Maricel Museum (Photo by Pilar Andreu Rovira)

Maricel Palace (Photo by Pilar Andreu Rovira)

Behind the church, a visit to the collection of small Sitges Museums (Tel: +34-93-894-0364. museusdesitges.cat/en) is a must. You can see Maricel Palace, built by wealthy American industrialist Charles Deering in the 20th century, though you’d swear you were in an 19th century royal home, with a picturesque rooftop courtyard filled with plants and traditional colored tiles. At Cau Ferrat Museum, explore the former home of artist Santiago Rusiñol, one of the most famous Catalan Impressionists and fantastic collector of art and objects. Another great choice is the Maricel Museum, housing a compact-yet-powerful collection of artworks spanning Ancient, Romanesque, Baroque, and many variations of modern art, including famous Spanish Modernisme and Noucentisme styles.

Sitges’s LGBTQ nightlife (and flirty daylife) is always busy, just head to longtime favorite bars along Plaça Industira, Carrer de Joan Tarrida, and adjacent streets to immerse yourself in rainbows. Parrots Pub & Terrace (Plaça de la Indústria, 2. facebook.com/parrotspub) is a big go-to with a fabulous patio for people watching. Or try La Villa (Carrer de Joan Tarrida 8. Tel: +34-62-010-0878.) for a more intimate indoor space and a few outdoor tables lining the narrow street.

Sitges Beach Area (Photo by OlKud)

Sitges Beach Area (Photo by OlKud)

Considering the local love for wine, beer, and famous Catalan vermouth (a sweeter, herbal fortified wine, usually served with an orange wedge), bars are everywhere in Sitges. And chiringuitos (beach bars) are especially lovely for seaside sipping. Check out Pub Voramar (Carrer de Port Alegre 55. Tel: +34-93-894-4403.) for a breezy spot on San Sebastian Beach. Or duck into corner bar La Gralla (Carrer Major 33. Tel: +34-62-303-9625) near City Hall for locally made vermouth, crisp Cava, and other libations.

Such a delightful beach town as Sitges has plenty of lodging options. Many travelers opt for longer stays in short-term apartment rentals and B&Bs. But for an excellent, four-star hotel right on San Sebastian Beach, try URH Playa Sitges (Carrer de Port Alegre 53. Tel: +34-93-894-8676. urhsitgesplayahotel.com), with a small shady pool, breakfast by the beach, and fantastic modern rooms, many with balconies. Near the train station, but only a short walk to the beach, is Hotel Liberty (Carrer de l’Illa de Cuba 45. Tel: +34-93-676-6950. libertyhotelsitges.com), an affordable boutique property with a lovely courtyard where guests can enjoy breakfast until noon daily. It’s the kind of place that, like much of Sitges, will make you feel instantly at home.

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